By The Chronicle staff
Editor’s note: This story is included in The Chronicle’s 2022-23 Prep Basketball Preview, which will be published in Thursday’s edition.
As the cookie crumbles in southwest Washington, three District 4 schools receive bids for the regional round.
That could be a problem this winter as four teams look dangerous.
The rising Joker who makes things interesting hails from East Lewis County, where Mossyrock designs bigger and better things. Last season, the Vikings finished two games under .500 and never came that close to taking down either Willapa Valley or Naselle, both of whom made it past the regional round to get into Spokane.
But things could change. Mossyrock was a notch below Naselle in football for a few seasons before this fall and the Vikings roared forward, defeating the Comets for the first time and establishing themselves as the team to beat in southwest Washington. It’s generally the same core of players on the hardwood, with Zachary Munoz as the top scorer, Eason and Keegan Kolb stepping in, and Hunter Isom working hard at the pole.
The Comets aren’t going anywhere quietly themselves. Despite the loss of jack-of-all-trades seniors Jason Harman and Joe Strange, Kolten Lindstrom is back for another year as arguably the top straight goalscorer in the 1B CVL. Behind him, the next generation for Naselle is coming down the ranks in college students Jack Strange and Jacob Lindstrom.
And of course, the reigning district champions may have something to say, as Willapa Valley completed some key plays, but Kolten and Derek Fluke and Wil Clements returned to lead a lineup heavily biased toward juniors and seniors.
In the obvious top three, Pe Ell could find themselves as one of the few solid midfield teams in the league. With more than a few struggling programs among them in the standings, there are plenty of wins for the Trojans on the board with a chance to sneak into the district tournament and make a run.
Speaking of the district tournament, there is another key element in the District 4 discussion and it goes by the name of Oakville. After reaching the regional round in Marcus Whittaker’s first season in charge, the Acorns lost just one senior from last year’s team. This winter they don’t seem to have slowed down on offense at all, but if anything they’re doing everything with more balance. Reigning 1B Coastal MVP Eddie Klatush is back, as are Premier League players Courtney Price and Ashton Boyd, with Gio and Daniel Rodas, Shayden Baker, Haezen Cayenne and many others also joining in the fun.
Oakville has already beaten a 3A team (River Ridge) and a 2A team (Centralia) and has a few more important matchups outside the league against higher-ranked sides before going into the league, putting it on the way to the districts could give a lot of momentum.
Coach: Tom Kelly (first)
Record 2021-22: 10-11 (districts)
Recurring Starters: Zack Munoz, Keegan Kolb, Easton Kolb, Hunter Isom
Newcomers to watch: Luke Cooper, Shaun Fry
Coach: Chris Phelps (runner-up)
Record 2021-22: 7-12 (districts)
Recurring Starters: Carter Phelps, Blake Howard, Kail Homan
Newcomers to watch: Logan Baldwin, Calan McCarty, Kaden Knowlton
Quotable: “We want to be a defensive juggernaut. You saw tonight, it was a struggle offensively, but we will continue to work on it. Defense wins championships, I know it sounds cliche, but it works. That’s going to be our identity, that’s what we want to hang our hat on, we just need to find a way to score.” – Chris Phelps